SYNDEY — NYU Sydney officially opened its doors a week after the Washington Square campus began its fall semester. But since then, the NYU Sydney director has since been replaced, an Aboriginal Art course shortened and a new professor assigned, and an otherwise required week-long volunteer-academic trip canceled.
Malcolm Semple, former interim dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science and professor of neural science and psychology, officially replaced Cathryn McConaghy as NYU Sydney director earlier this month.
Semple will spend half of his time in New York City and the other half in Sydney.
“The NYU Sydney program is so new, but it is exciting,” Semple said. “I don’t know what to expect, but I was hired as part of a handshake agreement as NYU Sydney director.”
Meanwhile, the details of McConaghy’s departure remain unclear. Sydney administration has given little explanation regarding the matter.
Even though McConaghy served as NYU Sydney director through mid-September, she had been absent most of the time and dropped the Aboriginal Art course she was scheduled to teach.
Sabra Thorner, a professor of anthropology, was hired in the middle of the semester to replace McConaghy, and the course was shortened from 14-weeks to 10-weeks. To make up for the concentrated time period, required field trips were added to the syllabus, including visits to Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.
In the wake of McConaghy’s absence, a week-long volunteer trip to Armidale, a small town outside of Sydney, was canceled due to insurance issues.
NYU Sydney student life director Tania Barnes held a meeting with students to allow them to express their concerns. She informed them that a sleepover at Taronga Zoo and laser tag, both compensated by NYU, would make up for the canceled trip.
Even though NYU Sydney administrators scrambled to prepare for the arrival of the inaugural class of 21 students, many academic aspects of the program are still being assembled.
Several professors were hired two weeks before the start of the academic semester, and many field trips and syllabus changes continue on a weekly basis.
Students were cautioned by NYU Sydney Study Abroad counselor Jonathan Maynard and NYU Sydney staff to be patient and understanding of the a new site’s adjustments.
Some aspects of academic planning were out of administrators’ hands before the arrival of the inaugural class. For example, due to construction on The Science House, an academic building certified as a World Heritage site, staff could not move into the building or set up class rooms until one week before students arrived for orientation.
Regardless of the many recent challenges, university spokesman John Beckman said NYU Sydney is off to a good start.
“Students are settling in well,” Beckman said. “We have a good program in place for them.”
He also commented on the site’s impression on the community and the impressive faculty.
“The Sydney community is excited by the opening of an NYU program,” he said. “We’re very pleased with the facility, and we have identified good leadership for the program.”
NYU Sydney students have a similarly positive outlook on the program. CAS junior Marissa Silverberg looks for the silver lining.
“I think NYU Sydney is really nice, especially for a start up program. It is small and people are always willing to consider your opinion in the program,” she said. “[The recent changes] are unfortunate, but it is a new program and everything has its own kinks. [Administrators] are making the best out the situation and I respect that.”
Sarah Kamenetz is a foreign correspondent. Email her at email@example.com.
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